One of the easiest ways to incubate and hatch goose eggs can be to leave it up to a broody goose. Not all breeds are good mothers. Heavier breeds can be quite clumsy and better at breaking eggs than sitting on them, but many lighter breeds will sit the term, hatching and raising their young.
Goose eggs can be difficult to hatch artificially in an incubator, so leaving this difficult job to the goose is a popular choice if she goes broody.
If you wonder whether your goose will be a good sitter, start with her age: A young goose will often not sit the full term, so the best chance you have is to wait until she is at least in her second season.
The breed is also important. Check with other breeders to see what their experiences have been with broody geese. I have found African and Toulouse geese are rarely good sitters and break eggs in the nest with their feet as they come on and off the nest. I have also found my African geese won’t sit for longer than a couple of weeks, but from my small flock of Brecon Buff geese, I have at least one broody goose each year, and they are devoted mothers.
Once you have a broody goose, you can’t move her nest, so start by encouraging her to sit in the right place. Provide nesting material for her in a shed or covered area where she will be safe for the incubation period. There should be a thick covering of wood shavings on the floor of sheds, so she can make a hollow for her eggs without them sitting on the hard floor (which risks them breaking).
If you leave goose eggs to accumulate in the nest, a goose will usually sit once laid a suitable size clutch of eggs between 6 and 10 eggs. To prevent breakages at this time, it is usually better to leave a couple of eggs in the nest and store the others in a cool place until there are enough for her to sit on. Even better is to use dummy goose eggs in the nest, so there is no risk of any breakages.
The broody goose
When a goose is broody and ready to sit, she will line her nest with down that she plucks from her breast. If she is keen (and sometimes she won’t settle, especially if the weather changes), then she should start to sit tight on the nest, coming off only for brief periods to eat, drink and bath.
A broody goose needs safety and peace to sit. There should be no rats since they may steal eggs from under her given a chance.
If another goose happens to go broody, you should separate them physically, or they will swap nests, steal one another’s eggs, or even both try to sit on the same nest at the same time, spoiling the clutch of eggs.
The gander has nothing better to do than to stand around on guard for his broody goose, and he can take his job very seriously, seeing off everything and anything that dares to come within chasing distance, so you may need to time your visits to check on her or risk getting pecked!
The incubation period
Goose eggs take between 28 and 35 days to hatch, and by the end of the incubation period, the goose will have become run down. It is important to note the date that she starts sitting so that you can intervene if she is still sitting after this time on non-viable eggs.
If you are going to candle her eggs, try to do this early on after 8 to 10 days because eggs can get fairly dirty, making the job more difficult later on.
Worming geese is usually recommended as they start to sit since often worms can take hold when the goose is run-down. Also, gizzard worm kills goslings easily, so by worming, you should be reducing the incidence of gizzard worm on the pasture once the goslings hatch.
Coming off the nest
Ensure your broody goose has clean water to bathe in when she comes off the nest, which can safely be anytime up to an hour. This helps with providing the correct moisture and humidity around the eggs whilst she sits.
The broody goose must come off the nest daily. Some will not and, in these circumstances, must be forced off the nest, or they will become fragile and may even die on the nest. Young, inexperienced geese are the worst for this, but older geese are usually wiser in this respect.
If you do need to lift her off the nest, be careful to hold her feet, so they don’t break the eggs and check her weight in your hands. If she feels very frail and will not eat much when removed from the nest, it may be better to finish the eggs off in an incubator.
When the eggs start to hatch, it can take 2 or 3 days before all of the goslings are out. The goose will talk to the goslings and keep them under her for the first couple of days. Still, as time goes on, the bravest will start to emerge more and more until eventually she abandons any unhatched eggs (which can then be removed from the nest) and will take the goslings to food, water and fresh grass.
Remember goslings are at risk of predation by the usual predators but also rats, hawks, buzzards and other birds of prey. I will keep my young family of geese in a pen close to the house for the first couple of weeks so I can keep an eye on them.
As they grow, they will stay together as a family and can be given more freedom to roam. They are a real pleasure to have around!
I hope you have success hatching goose eggs with a broody goose. Please leave me a comment below if you have any questions or comments. I am always looking to improve articles, so I appreciate your feedback.